The city’s quarantine has left our favourite cinemas shuttered and depending on us like never before. It’s time to rally round them
Like the capital’s inhabitants, London’s cinemas are a hardy bunch. Over the decades, they’ve survived everything from the Blitz to the advent of TV and streaming, to beady-eyed property developers and the theatrical release of ‘Cats’. That resilience is now being tested like never before. Last week’s advice from the government that people should avoid public venues fell crucially short of being a direct instruction, leaving it up to the cinemas to decide when to close. All now have. We won’t know the fallout from this decision for some time, but it won’t be pretty. Insurance will be harder to recoup, cinema employees will be at risk of losing their jobs and some of our favourite picture houses will struggle to stay afloat.
Our local cinemas are always there for us – in good times and bad. Particular screenings lodge in our minds, sense memories that flash up from time to time like lights on a Christmas tree. For me, an afternoon watching ‘The Red Shoes’ for the first time at BFI Southbank and the Gen X rush of ‘Human Traffic’ at the Ritzy in Brixton have always stuck. I’ve practically had therapy to dislodge the time my dad frogmarched me out of a Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder comedy at the Odeon Shaftesbury Avenue after their 132nd F-bomb. The movies don’t always age as well in reality as they do in our minds, but we never forget where we first saw them.
As our local indie cinemas, arthouse screens and even ginormo-multiplexes put up the shutters in the face of the pandemic, they’ll need us just as much as we’ve needed them. There are practical ways to help. Whether it’s the Rio in Dalston or the Prince Charles in Leicester Square, the chances are your favourite cinema has a membership scheme to invest in. Heck, you can sponsor a whole screening at South Norwood’s community cinema Screen25. Others have streaming sites where you can watch new releases (Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player, for two). I’m sure they’d love it if you just tweeted them a Pixar gif.
Of course, Time Out will keep you abreast of what’s happening with all of these cinemas, but you can also help by keeping them in your thoughts – even as you settle down to another evening of Netflix. And when this situation blows over, let’s all go to the movies.
All of London’s cinema membership schemes (and their perks) explained.